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Staying Clear of Smoke May Repair Arteries

Passive smoking: An international study finds that damage can be partially reversed if victims avoid exposure for at least one year.

April 12, 1999|DON COLBURN | WASHINGTON POST

Damage to the arteries from "passive" or side-stream smoke may be partly reversible if the victims avoid exposure to smoke for at least a year, a small international study suggests.

The findings support "individual and public health policy initiatives to allow nonsmokers to avoid smoke-filled environments at home or in the workplace," researchers said.

"In healthy young adults, we have now demonstrated that cessation of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke for more than two years is associated with improved arterial function," the study concluded.

The study was conducted by researchers from Sydney, Australia, and Turku, Finland. They reported their findings this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers studied 60 young nonsmoking adults. One-third had never been regularly exposed to smoke at home or at work. Another third reported being exposed to tobacco smoke from others at home or work or both, for at least an hour a day for two years. The final third had been exposed to side-stream smoke, but had ceased this exposure at least one year before the study.

The three groups were otherwise closely matched: They had comparable medical histories, blood-pressure levels and estimated risk of heart disease. None took cardiovascular medication.

Each adult underwent a series of tests, including ultrasound, to measure blood flow and changes in the lining of the brachial artery, a major artery in the arm. Researchers used the condition of the lining of that artery as a measure of possible damage from exposure to side-stream tobacco smoke.

Arterial function was "significantly better in the former passive smokers than in the passive smokers," the study found.

The difference was especially pronounced for those who had avoided exposure to smoke for two years.

Both the current and former passive smokers, however, were impaired, compared with people who had never been exposed to tobacco smoke.

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